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Burnt History

You may have seen this picture in the news recently.  The oldest building in Castile, NY, burnt down last week.  The building used to house Lorraine’s Restaurant and the Town Offices.  Harold and DeLuca state, “A photograph is often seen as a slice of the real a trace of that which was” (p. 214).  This photo captures that concept well.  Soon the building will be demolished and this photo truly will be a slice of the past.  Additionally, to anyone that knows the context in which the fire occurred, the photo may “…provoke a physical response that temporarily precedes and exceeds ‘sense’-a reflexive shudder, an involuntary retching” (p. 275).  For those of you that don’t know, the owner of  Lorraine’s body was found in the basement of the building.  Authorities are treating the scene like a crime scene and a homicide may be what ultimately occurred.  As you can imagine, this is BIG BIG news for such a small town.




For those of you who don’t know, I am also from the same area as Nichole. This event was a huge shock and truly devastating news for anyone in town who knew Loraine, the proprietor of the restaurant who was killed in the fire. I think I may be a week ahead with my readings, but the article by Smith & Price discusses how photojournalism indicates that oftentimes, the horror or tragic nature of a photograph often dictates if it will be front page news; furthermore, if the picture illustrates good story-telling, it is considered good journalism (p. 128). To Nichole and I who are from this area, this event would be considered front page news; however, to others perhaps not. It is just interested what is considered “important” based on your closeness to the news subject at hand.


I’m glad for the context here – this kind of image may be fairly typical in areas of the city where it happens more often (though a house burning down anywhere is fairly jarring). This pic serves to both imply a more troubling background because as you say, its layout similar to a crime scene, and as a relic to the memory of the proprietor. It comes back to how police use crime photos to hold a scene in memory before it changes. Photographs freeze moments in time for further study as reality shifts around it.

I’m simultaneously grateful and depressed that we could bring attention to so much tragedy this week.

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